ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — Does your teenager know the warning signs of an abusive relationship? One in three teens experience verbal or physical abuse from a dating partner. This statistic is the reason that “safe dating” education is now required by law in New Jersey, according to a press release from NCJW/Essex.
Essex County high schools ran programs in October on teen dating abuse prevention and awareness in ninth-grade health classes. Students learned how to recognize signs of abuse, how to end abusive relationships and how to develop healthy dating relationships. Participating schools were Maplewood’s Columbia, West Orange, Bloomfield and Montclair high schools, and East Orange’s STEM Academy.
“Our goal is to build awareness for teens to prevent them from getting involved in an abusive relationship, and how to safely end the relationship,” program Co-chairwoman Cindy Charney said in the release. “Abuse starts slowly and is often difficult to identify in its initial stages.”
The teen dating abuse program is sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women’s Essex County Section, which, for more than 20 years, has been providing the classroom program free of charge in Essex County high schools. The program dispatches trained dating-abuse educators to conduct the workshops in high school health classes.
The NCJW Teen Dating Abuse program fulfills the new N.J. Department of Education requirement to incorporate dating violence education into the health curriculum.
In the early years, the TDA program was designated for high school juniors. Now it is primarily presented to freshman classes because teens are maturing earlier, and the problem is happening at younger ages. In recent years, the curriculum has been updated to include information about the use of texting, social networking sites and other digital technologies in dating abuse.
This year, more than 60 trained volunteers have presented the program to approximately 3,000 teenagers. More than 50,000 students have participated in the program since its inception in 1992.
In addition to working directly with children in schools, TDA runs a program for parent and community groups — such as PTAs, churches and synagogues — called “Teen Dating: the Untold Story.”
For information about how to have a TDA presentation in your school or for your parent group, or if you are interested in becoming a TDA volunteer, call the NCJW office at 973-740-0588. Visit
http://www.centerforwomenNJ.org/teen_dating_abuse.html for additional